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09.28.09

Hollywood's Nightmare Couple

Actor Randy Quaid and his wife are wanted fugitives after skipping another court hearing last week—and can’t bail themselves out this time. Their latest drama comes after a pattern of skipped bills for hotel charges, paranoia, and premonitions of his violent death.

James Davis, a deputy in the sheriff’s department in Presidio County, Texas, set off in his cruiser onto the local stretch of Interstate 90, armed with his gun, as always, and an arrest warrant for two local residents: the Academy Award-nominated actor Randy Quaid and his wife Evi, a former nude model for Helmut Newton.

Somewhere between the small towns of Alpine and Marfa, Davis pulled over the Quaids’ rental car, and explained that he needed to place them under arrest on a felony warrant from California charging them with defrauding an innkeeper, burglary, and conspiracy. The charges stemmed from allegations that months earlier the couple had walked away from a $10,000 hotel bill at the posh San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara County, California.

After the Quaids were booked and photographed, deputies drove them to the bank to withdraw money for their $20,000 bond because, “Frankly, we didn’t want them in our jail overnight.”

“Randy got quite upset at the news,” Davis tells The Daily Beast. But the 6-foot-4 actor, now sporting a full Santa Claus-like beard, was subdued in comparison to his diminutive wife. “It was a psychotic episode with her,” Davis says. “Evi was slapping at and pulling at officers, not really assaulting but resisting full on ... fussing and fuming. I finally got a hold of her, put her down on the hood of the car and put the cuffs on behind her back.” Randy, apparently realizing the severity of the situation, tried to help officers get his wife to calm down.

After the Quaids were booked and photographed, deputies drove them to the bank to withdraw money for their $20,000 bond because, “Frankly, we didn’t want them in our jail overnight.”

Perhaps the strangest part of last week’s incident was that it wasn’t that strange. Davis, for one, had witnessed her act before: “I’ve had a few episodes in the past with her when she shows up screaming at [Marfa city] council meetings. I get called in to keep the peace when she’s around.” And the couple has recently left behind a trail of allegedly unpaid bills, from ritzy hotels to trailer parks, accountants to private detectives, the latter hired to exact revenge on several enemies and to help figure out, in the words of P.I. Becky Altringer, “who was trying to kill them.”

randy-quaid
Randy Quaid as Joe Aguirre in Brokeback Mountain. (Everett Collection)

The troubles began piling up two years ago, stemming from, of all things, a show in Washington state. Randy Quaid, who is actor Dennis’ older brother and turns 59 this week, has appeared in dozens of movies, ranging from Midnight Express to Brokeback Mountain to The Last Detail (for which he received his 1973 Oscar nomination) and also has a Golden Globe win and an Emmy nomination to his credit. He was hired to lend credibility to a pre-Broadway theatrical production of Lone Star Love in Seattle in 2007. But during rehearsals, Evi, acting as her husband’s manager, and Randy reportedly so harassed, manhandled, and humiliated the cast that all 26 members of the production filed a complaint with the Actors' Equity union.

On February 4, 2008, Randy was "banned for life" from Actors' Equity and fined $81,572 for “wreaking havoc” on the production. Two weeks later, the Quaids appeared at union headquarters in Los Angeles and Evi allegedly screamed at employees and physically attacked a 76-year-old receptionist, according to several restraining orders later filed against Evi by Actors' Equity employees. Evi would later say it was all a “despicable lie” from members of a “corrupt union.”

With major movie offers dwindling, the ban on union stage work sharply curtained Quaid’s ability to make new money.

Evi filmed her run-in at the union offices with her ever-present handheld camera. Altringer says she was shown the video during a meeting this June at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills at which time the Quaids hired her to get information on those who’d taken out the restraining orders. After the Quaids’ stay at that luxury hotel, the bill was paid with a credit card in the name of “Janet Cross.” Altringer says Evi gave her that card to use for dinner and it was declined.

Altringer quickly got sucked into the Quaids’ strange world. She says they insisted that a former business manager had taken out a million-dollar life-insurance policy on Randy and had hired “the Mob” to kill both Quaids to collect the payout. It was to be staged to look like a murder/suicide, Evi explained, and Altringer’s job was to help identify the “killers.”

Altringer says she witnessed Evi Quaid self-medicating with Demerol three times a day. "She told me she snorted it in her left nostril so it would go right to her brain to cure her migraines. I saw her do this myself. She also … believed [Michael] Jackson was murdered along with Heath Ledger, Chris Penn, David Carradine, Natasha Richardson, and other stars who (had been) in movies with Randy.”

Altringer says she was instructed by Evi to run a check on several license plate numbers from the funeral of David Carradine. The Quaids were certain the drivers were the “killers.” The plates came back as employees of Forest Lawn Cemetery.

“One day we were outside and Evi pointed to some towers on a nearby hill. ‘Look, Becky,’ she said to me, ‘there they are watching us, keeping track of us.’ She pointed to firemen training in the distance too. I tried to tell her they were just communications towers and firemen but ….” Altringer’s voice trails off.

Evi also told the private investigator that she had convinced Randy to turn down the offer of a major part on the Fox TV show Fringe because she said Fox was “part of the Mob.”

The Quaids had moved out of not one but two Beverly Hills residences and told Altringer bizarre tales of poisoned swimming pools, a dead dog, and feeling unsafe. With nowhere in particular to live, the Quaids seem to have hit the road and they left a trail of bills—both overdue and unpaid.

They owed $10,546.96 to the San Ysidro Ranch, for which they were arrested. Paperwork filed with the arrest warrant says the Quaids checked in with a bogus credit card, a phony address and phone numbers and gave multiple excuses to hotel management as they drove up the tab. Interestingly, just a short while before their arrest they finally paid about half that bill via a cashier’s check.

According to police, the Quaids have owed $17,000 to the Bel Air Hotel in Beverly Hills for more than a year and they ran out on a night’s stay (about $500) from the Biltmore Hotel in Montecito, California. In July 2008, the Quaids left a $55,243 bill at San Francisco’s Nob Hill hotel, according to a letter from the hotel. Their Mercedes was mysteriously stolen from the hotel’s valet stand and that might have been the reason they left the hotel bill unpaid. Just recently a source close to the situation said, “They have now paid us all they owed.”

The Quaids’ former business manager in Beverly Hills got stiffed for as much as $50,000, though legal documents seen by The Daily Beast indicate the Quaids may not have paid the firm because they believe it failed to protect them in the Actors' Equity dispute; a California woman who rented the Quaids a trailer home for $2,000 for parts of June, July and August says she never got a penny, and that the star and his wife left the trailer trashed; and a lawsuit was filed recently in Ventura County, California by a former friend of the couple’s who claims they took an antique table and chairs worth $8,500 after she refused to give in to Evi’s demand that she lend them money. The Mickey Fine Pharmacy in Beverly Hills has been in court demanding an unspecified back payment from Evi since November 2008. There are several other small claims suits still pending in the Los Angeles court system as well.

The Quaids have a longer history of not paying what they owe. They filed bankruptcy protection on January 6, 2000. But that didn't absolve them of a massive amount of debt they owed to both the IRS ($412,000) and on several liens the state of California slapped on them which totaled more than $207,000. Evi Quaid told her private eye she was on a "payment plan" with the government.

According to their former private investigator, the Quaids kept a Hertz rental car, picked up at the Santa Barbara airport in May, for so long the company thought about declaring it stolen. It was ultimately returned in El Paso, Texas; Mercedes Benz Financial still wants as much as $60,000 for the unpaid balance on a vehicle, but in a letter obtained by The Daily Beast, Evi writes they abandoned the Mercedes because they feared a bugging device had been installed.

Such seemingly paranoid behavior was on display again this past Friday. At 9:23 am, about 12 hours after the couple was released from jail, Evi Quaid turned up at Marfa, Texas’ rival police department and filed a complaint against Sheriff's Deputy Davis. In a tightly scrawled handwritten grievance she wrote that Davis was part of a plot with the Stagehands’ Union and their former business manager who had been “attempting to acquire our assets illegally by creating false evidence.” She didn’t stop there. Evi then rolled up to the sheriff’s office with a moving truck on which she’d hand painted a sign that read, "Deputy James Davis takes payments ... call & make offers."

Deputy Davis took a snapshot of the truck. “I understand about freedom of speech and all that,” he says, “but I am considering legal action.

Multiple calls and emails to the Quaids, and their representatives, were not returned. Calls from The Daily Beast to several of the Quaids’ business associates were met with terse replies of "no comment." Not even the Quaid family seems interested in trying to assist the brother and his bride of nearly 20 years. Calls to representatives of Dennis Quaid went unanswered. Three sources say Dennis is frustrated with the situation and has given up trying to help.

Altringer says during the month she worked for the Quaids, Evi told her on an almost daily basis that she and Randy were “going to end up like Phil and Bryn Hartman”–a reference to Saturday Night Live Star Phil Hartman who was shot dead in his bed by his drug-plagued wife Bryn, who then killed herself. The private investigator, whose firm, Aerial Investigations, is owed $17,000 by the Quaids, says she worries Evi’s premonition might come true.

Plus: Check out more of the latest entertainment, fashion, and culture coverage on Sexy Beast—photos, videos, features, and Tweets.

Investigative journalist and syndicated columnist Diane Dimond has covered the Michael Jackson story since 1993 when she first broke the news that the King of Pop was under investigation for child molestation. She is author of the book, Be Careful Who You Love—Inside the Michael Jackson Case. She lives in New York with her husband, broadcast journalist, Michael Schoen.